The capital of Sichuan Province and also known as the “Heavenly State” (Tian Fu Zhi Guo), Chengdu occupies a total area of nearly 12.3 thousand square kilometers. True to its name, ‘Tian Fu Zhi Guo’, Chengdu is extremely fertile with abundant mineral resources. The capital became famous for its brocades and embroideries during the Han (206B.C.-220) and Tang (618-907) dynasties when its handicraft industry flourished. Even today, the embroideries coming out of Chengdu are highly regarded for their bright colors and delicate designs, and are considered to be among the four main embroideries in China. And its not only the embroidery that Chengdu is famous for, it has many more feathers in his cap. The bronze culture – an indispensable part of ancient Chinese culture – originated here, the Southern Silk Road started from here, and this was the place where the earliest paper currency, was first printed.
A rich historical past has left Chengdu with countless historical and cultural sites definitely worth visiting. Not only these, a few hours drive from Chengdu there are various natural locations that would marvel any visitor.
This photo of Jiuzhaigou World Heritage Site is courtesy of TripAdvisor
Jiuzhaigou Valley – Located in Nanping County, 450 kilometers (about 280 miles) to the north of Chengdu City, Jiuzhaigou (literally “Nine Village Valley”) takes its name from the nine Tibetan villages along its length. It is not hard to imagine why this famous attraction was designated as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. At first glance, Jiuzhaigou valley looks like it came straight out of a fairy tale book or painting. The blue lakes, waterfalls, verdant forests, snow-covered mountains, and the folk customs of the indigenous people gives this place a dreamlike eloquence. Located north of Chengdu, there is perhaps no where else in China or maybe the world that has such breathtaking natural scenery. Legend has it that long long ago the deity of mountain named Dago had a crush on the goddess Semo, and he gave a mirror that was made from wind and cloud to the goddess. However, the devil appeared and caused Semo to drop the mirror smashing it into 108 pieces, which fell down to the earth and then turned to 108 colorful lakes. Covering an area of nearly 30,000 hectares, there are numerous flora and fauna including 2,576 higher plant species and over 400 lower plant species. The diversity of flora has provided a good environment for wild animals and there are 170 species of vertebrates, 141 species of birds and 17 species of rare animals including giant pandas, takins and golden monkeys. Although Jiuzhaigou valley is a 10 hour drive from Chengdu, we highly recommend making the trip out here to experience the stunning beauty of the waterfalls, colorful lakes, and snow-capped peaks.
Opening hours: 07:00 to 19:00 in peak season; 08:00 to 18:00 in off-peak season.
This photo of Huanglong Scenic Valley is courtesy of TripAdvisor
Huanglong Scenic Valley – Another UNESCO World Heritage Site, this scenic and historic interest area is located in the Songpan County, in the northwest part of Sichuan Province. Known for its colorful lakes formed by calcite deposits, especially in Huanglonggou (Yellow Dragon Gully), as well as diverse forest ecosystems, snow clad mountains, gushing waterfalls and hot springs. Huanglong’s beautiful scenery is concentrated in the 3.6-kilometer long valley that includes snow covered mountains and the easternmost glaciers in China. As a result of the layered calcium carbonated deposit patterns, the valley resembles a golden dragon winding its way through the forest, stone mountains and glaciers. There are numerous colorful lakes of different shapes and sizes scattered all along the valley. The lakes are strewn with gold colored limestone deposit giving the water a shimmering golden hue. And in sunlight, a golden dragon seems to surge forth from the forest. Hence the name ‘Huanglong Valley’ (Yellow Dragon Valley). If you happen to visit Huanglong valley in spring, you are in for a treat. In spring, the luxuriant trees, blooming flowers, butterflies and birdsong adds a breathtaking dimension to the beauty of the lakes. From the lakes, one can see the interwoven reflection of trees, mountains, clouds and sky – truly a visual feast! In the Huanglong (Yellow Dragon) Cave, visitors can find three sitting Buddha figures whose bodies are encrusted with calc-sinter crystals. In winter, the ice forest, bamboo shoots and waterfalls form a magical icy scene. Shitazhenhai is the most beautiful attraction in Huanglong. The calcium carbonate deposits give a myriad of different hues to the water, which is truly breath-taking. Zhuanhua Pond is crystal clear and the spring water never stops welling up. If you throw flowers or leaves into the pond, they will swirl rhythmically with flow of the water. This place is definitely a must visit! We recommend spending the entire day exploring and marveling at the beauty of nature at its finest.
Opening hours: 09:10 to 16:40 every day.
This photo of Huanglongxi Ancient Town is courtesy of TripAdvisor
Huanglongxi Ancient Town – Situated in Shuangliu County, 30 kilometers southeast from Chengdu, Huanglongxi Ancient Town is an ancient town with a history of more than 1,700 years. Known for its beautiful natural scenery and ancient Chinese culture, Huanglongxi Ancient Town attracts visitors from China and aboard. Huanglongxi dates back to the Western Han (206 BC-24 AD). During the Three Kingdoms Period (220-280), the town was of great military importance to the south of Chengdu (the capital of Shu Kingdom). Story has it that Huanglongxi was guarded by troops when Zhuge Liang, the famous strategist, statesman and ideologist, led a southern expedition. The loss of this expedition was an important factor in the collapse of the Shu kingdom. With many scenic places of interest, Huanglongxi Ancient Town is worth a visit to find the old Chinese culture and customs. Seven ancient streets, which were built during the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911) Dynasties, are well preserved. Most of the town has been restored to retain its rustic charm, with ancient cobbled streets, temples, and wharves and houses along its curving alleys. Most of these shops have turned into souvenirs stores and food stalls. Many famous local dishes such as the sesame cakes, the stonewashed bean paste and the fermented beans can be found here. Moreover, due to its beautiful scenery and ancient architecture, Huanglongxi Ancient Town is an ideal place to make costume films. So if you are lucky, you can catch the production of a film or drama!
Huanglongxi Ancient Town is opened all day without admission fee.
This photo of Mount Qincheng is courtesy of TripAdvisor
Mt. Qingcheng – Located in the southwest of the Dujiangyan, Mt. Qingcheng is one of the most famous Taoist mountains in China. Covered by verdant and luxuriant trees, this attractive and scenic site is surrounded by numerous peaks and is shaped like a city. Dubbed ‘the most peaceful and secluded mountain under heaven’ by locals, Mt. Qingcheng can be divided into two parts – the anterior Mt. Qingcheng and the posterior Mt. Qingcheng. The anterior Mt. Qingcheng is the main part of the scenic spot, covering an area approximately 15 square kilometers and possesses alluring natural beauty and an abundance of cultural relics and historic sites. Among them, famous attractions such as the Jianfu Palace, the Shangqing Palace, and the Tianshi Cave. When visiting Mt. Qingcheng, visitors can enjoy the beautiful sights, moderate climate, natural beauty, cultural relics and historic sites of Taoism.
Opening hours: 08:00 – 17:50 every day.